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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Tips for Seniors About Life Story Writing or Telling

Anthropologist Myla Collier teaches a class on Life Story Writing for Seniors through Cuesta Community College Adult Emeritus, San Luis Obispo, California. Seniors learn techniques for memory retrieval that include using "memory joggers" because some of the experiences they write about happened more than 50 years ago in their lives.

Throughout history seniors have traditionally been the family historians, adding their life story to the life stories of the ancestors. Genealogy and family trees are related topics that seniors also may research and preserve.

The class offers seniors helpful techniques that include how to write a chronological life history that starts at birth. Seniors learn to feel more comfortable with their memories, and to accept the good times and the difficult times as an integrated part of their lives.

Humorous anecdotes, the development of interests and careers, and life stages are all included.

Examples of the way others told their life stories include Grandma Moses. Her autobiography started as follows:

"I, Anna Mary Robertson, was born back in the green meadows and wild woods on a farm in Washington County in the year 1860, September 7, of Scotch Irish paternal ancestry. Here I spent the first ten years of my life withmy mother, father, and sisters and brothers. Those were happy days free from care and worry."

Writing or telling a life history can be a wonderful activity for seniors. Some people dictate the story into a tape recorder or record it with a videotape.

Describing the styles and trends of an era 50 or 80 years ago and adding the historical events and facts helps to create the setting and time so that others can picture it. Memories become sharper when instructor Myla reads an historical synopsis for a time period, such as the 1950's.

The seniors I've assisted as a caregiver have enjoyed discussing their life history. I frequently use techniques I've learned in Myla Collier's class. Many people make a book out of their life story, and these histories or memoirs are given to relatives and added to the family heirlooms.

Seniors writing a life history refresh their memories, organize the memories chronologically, and enjoy creating a book reflecting life lived during the various historical eras.

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